Thirteen-year-old Gracie Thomas has always loved chickens.
So, when the pandemic began early last year, Thomas began to think: Perhaps the moment presented a great opportunity for her family to purchase chicks and raise them on their property in Cheshire. But Thomas soon learned that zoning regulations prevent just anyone, such as her and her family, from owning and raising chickens on their properties.
“Cheshire right now has a rule that you can’t have chickens unless you have two acres of land,” Thomas explained. “And that’s just ridiculous! Everyone should be able to have chickens. They’re so great and friendly. How could you not love them?”
Not content to just let her dream of chicken ownership die, Thomas has decided to get involved. The teenager is looking to have the regulations changed to one that would allow for residents who live on half an acre of land or more to own chickens.
The decision to get involved sprang not just from Thomas’ discovery of the zoning restrictions, but also a challenge made by her mother.
“I told her if she really wants these chickens, which she does, that she would have to work to get the rule changed,” said Alexandra Thomas. “She is homeschooled this year, and this is her big project.”
Thomas and her mother started a Change.org petition, and posted it at the beginning of April, to get momentum started for her initiative. She immediately began receiving support from residents all around town. The petition has gained over 500 signatures in just two weeks.
“We couldn’t believe the amount of signatures we received,” Alexandra Thomas added. “We have been getting messages from people all over saying how badly they have either wanted chickens or how much their kids want them, and we think it would be really amazing for the town to have.”
Thomas has also created a PowerPoint slideshow presentation for anyone who might be on the fence about why chickens are a great addition to anyone’s property.
“Chickens are just so cool, and they give you fresh eggs and eat all the bugs that are annoying,” she said. “Especially bugs like ticks and mosquitoes. I think learning about animals is so fun and cool, it is so interesting to learn about how to take care of different animals as well.”
In 2009, Cheshire’s zoning rule regarding chickens was changed from 3 acres to 2 after some public complaints were received.
“Back then, they wanted to change the rule from 3 to 2 acres and we did that,” explained William Voelker, Cheshire Town Planner. “I give the girl, Gracie, a lot of credit. This is something she wants to do and I hope she can do it for herself. We changed the rule then — maybe we will change it again.”
Thomas has been in talks with members of the Town Council, who informed her that she would need to go in front of the Zoning Board to plead her case.
“It has been a really nerve-wracking experience talking to all these Town officials, but I really hope they hear what I have to say,” Thomas added. “In three weeks, I have a scheduled meeting with them. I hope we can change the law!”
Gracie Thomas’s petition can be found by visiting www.change.org/p/town-of-cheshire-zoning-changeling-chicken-laws-for-cheshire?redirect=false.